Poet Kelly Madigan Erlandson breaks into prose with her new book
Published: May 29, 2007
|Kelly Madigan Erlandson says her "adoration" of language came to life the moment she began to read. A fascination with words drew her to writing poetry and literary essays. After establishing a successful publishing track record, Erlandson will hit the road, touring with her new book.|
But this book isn't poetry or a collection of scholarly essays. It's mainstream prose. Furthermore, this serious poet--who is admired for her craftsmanship--isn't doing a literary book through a small press. Her new book Getting Sober: A Practical Guide to Making It Through the First 30 Days is being published by McGraw-Hill. Erlandson has an agent.
So how does a poet go from writing poetry to penning a nonfiction book aimed at the general public?
It really wasn't part of her plan. "The idea had to be brought to my attention repeatedly before I caught on that I was supposed to write it," she recalls.
Erlandson works as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. She works with people who are beginning the recovery process. "I knew I had some information that was helpful," she says. "I was looking for ways to deepen my involvement with writing. ... I'd always heard you should write what you know." What clinched her commitment to the new book went beyond the tangible.
"I had a recurring dream that I was supposed to write the book. I took that seriously and did what I was led to do."
That dream, coupled with a platform built on clinical experience, led her to make the book a reality. She says she had endorsements for her book from two New York Times bestselling authors. Mary Pipher, the author of Reviving Ophelia, read the manuscript and endorsed it.
Then Erlandson read Christopher Kennedy Lawford's book Symptoms of Withdrawal, an account of his own recovery. Erlandson wrote to Lawford, telling him she was impressed with the way he told his story. She mentioned she was looking for a publisher for her own book. She asked him if he would look at her manuscript and possibly endorse it.
Pipher and Lawford's recommendations, Erlandson says, "helped get the attention of both my agent and my publisher."
Erlandson's diverse skills will come in handy as she presents readings from her new book. She's a veteran at reading her poetry in public. She's also conducted creativity workshops. She says her comfort at the microphone is an asset. "I enjoy talking with people," she confesses. "I'm excited about getting out to talk with folks about recovery."
Despite her success, Erlandson doesn't have plans to quit her day job. The Nebraska author says she does want more time to write. "But I feel privileged to do the kind of work I do. I learn as much from my clients every day as they learn from me." For now, she's scaled back to working three days a week.
Erlandson is busy setting up workshops, community events, book signings and counselor training sessions to help support her book launch. States she'll visit include her home state of Nebraska, plus Colorado, Minnesota, Wyoming, New York and Florida.
She's just getting started with mainstream prose. After her agent found a publisher for Getting Sober, Erlandson bought herself a white kayak. She told a reporter for The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star that when you're in a kayak, "you're so close to the water you can touch it." Her future plans for prose?
"I'm talking with a small press regarding a book about paddling Nebraska rivers."
May 29, 2007
Visit Kelly Madigan Erlandson on the Web: http://kellymadiganerlandson.com
Photo of Erlandson used with permission, by Helen Stringfellow.
Do you tense up at the thought of reading your poetry to an audience? Join me next time, on June 12, for tips and insight on taking your poetry from page to stage.
--Posted May 29, 2007